The college basketball season is almost over. The NBA is preparing for the beginning of its nine-month playoff extravaganza. The NHL is likely doing the same thing – but since I don’t have Versus with my cable package and I refuse to listen to that clown Matthew Barnaby when the Mullet Man Barry Melrose is out there somewhere – it cannot be verified. Essentially, it’s time for baseball to jump off. And for fans of the True Blue Brew Crew, this season has been a long time coming after the excitement of the 2008 playoffs. Without further ado, here’s a look at your 2009 squad, broken down into four groups over two posts.
To begin, the pitching staff:
Everybody (whoever that is) thinks the Brewers will completely fall apart without CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets on the hill this year. But before ‘Sconnies prepare for Packers season already, all is not lost. Don’t forget – Sheets never won more than 13 games, and the Brewers were a halfway decent team before CC showed up in July. The Crew have the bats, but the question marks are here on the mound. In my humble (but ultimately, entirely correct) opinion, this group of gents will make or break the 2009 Brewers.
THE STARTING ROTATION: MEH?
Jeff Suppan is pitching Opening Day, but he won’t be the No. 1 all year. He’s getting old, but he will eat up some innings and grab a few wins here and there. Plus, he can dispense wisdom to the young’ns about how sweet he USED to be.
Yovani Gallardo will be the best Brewers pitcher. He has not pitched a full season in the Majors, but the 23-year-old has talent to spare. He tore his ACL early last season against the Cubs and came back to pitch Game One of the NLDS. Expect big things from Señor Gallardo. Also, he’s the only Major Leaguer ever named Yovani – so, he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Manny Parra won 10 games in 2008, his first full season in the big leagues. Parra probably took the most out of Sabathia’s stay in Milwaukee, as the hard-throwing lefthander constantly picked his mind for advice. Hooray for friendship!
Braden Looper came to the Crew from the Cardinals after winning 12 games in each of his first two years as a starter. Crew fans are hoping he turns out better than the last aging Cardinals pitcher they picked up (See: Suppan, Jeff). He’s already trying to work through an injury, but is still slated to start the home opener.
Dave Bush is another unproven starter that will need to exceed expectations in Milwaukee. He finished with the 5th-best WHIP in the NL last season (1.14) – which I didn’t know until just now. Hopefully, most of those hits in 2009 aren’t three run bombs.
THE BULLPEN: UH-OH.
Trevor Hoffman was the offseason’s big pickup. Any baseball fan knows the all-time saves leader and his ridiculous changeup. He’s getting old, but he can still change speeds with the best of ‘em. He’s on the DL to start the season, but should be back soon.
Carlos Villanueva will close until Hoffman’s healthy and then settle into a setup role. He bombed as a starter last year and is probably in the bullpen for good. He is also the second best Chuck Villanueva in Milwaukee professional sports – and probably the only one that doesn’t Tweet during games.
Seth McClung is a giant. He is 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and pure ginger. He also throws very hard. If someone gets hurt, he’ll move into the starting rotation. That is all there is say about Seth McClung.
Mitch Stetter is the only lefty in the ‘pen, and he tosses some wicked sidearm stuff as evidenced by his 1.84 ERA in 14 appearances this spring. But it doesn’t matter how good he is, because a true Brewers fan will always pine for Brian Shouse … the greatest we’ve ever seen. As you can tell, it’ll tough to replace whatever the hell that is.
Todd Coffey is a pitcher I used to make fun of for being awful when he was on the Reds a few years ago. He was a blown save waiting to happen, or at least that’s the impression I had. As a full-blown homer, I’m sure he’s over all that and will dominate through fine facial hair and, evidently, running style. He did pitch well in Maryvale, with a spring ERA of 2.10 over 10 appearances.
David Riske rocks a soulpatch, but it’s a joke compared to J.J. Hardy, so I don’t know why he keeps it. He had an awful start to the spring – giving up runs in his first seven appearances before finally nailing down a few straight scoreless innings as camp wound down.
Jorge Julio is another newbie, coming from Atlanta. Julio will fight for time as the setup man and throws queso.
Mark DiFelice, as detailed during the World Baseball Classic, is Italian and new to the Major Leagues. He pitched in 15 games last fall and has been on point this spring. He should make an impression as a long reliever and could even start in spot situations or if injuries arise.
That’s all for the Crew’s pitching staff, so while you get all “rabble rabble” about that, I’ll be back later with a preview of the hitters.